From that first morning in the hall

outside homeroom hour

John J and I joked together, shot pool,

studied in the library, ran laps together

around the practice field


He clasped my tiny head in his huge black hand

if I smiled smugly at A+ papers,

squashed me to linoleum to keep me in my place;

I mocked him when he laughed mouth full

of that day’s sandwhich,

splattered his opinions into the air,

and that’s the way we made it through

the foolishness of the Fifties


The remains of those hundreds of days

when the only excitement was a fire drill

grin out at me from a stamp sized square

in our high school yearbook,

one of a few dark faces in a class of eighty,

lit with a light that made hope seem dull


The day before a senior party in the suburbs

I found him sobbing on the school’s front steps,

omitted from the invitation list

for fear the neighbors would complain


Even as I swore again and again,

“John, I’m not going without you,”

he kept shoving me away with his bare elbow,

left without me into the din of the riotous streets




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